Isaiah Hughes is 16 years old and a student at Davidson Fine Arts Magnet School. Isaiah has an older brother, a dog, and two happily married parents. He really enjoys music and sports. Most of Isaiah’s time is spent either watching soccer, playing soccer or listening to music. He recently returned to attending Curtis Baptist Church and he has high hopes for a positive future for his faith and soccer.

When did your interest in soccer start?
I started playing soccer when I was around 4 years old. I played for fun at first with no intention of pursuing a future in soccer. One day after a game, my dad got an email from a local travel team saying they were interested in me trying out. My dad was confident in me, so he signed me up to try out the next season. I made the team and was one of the worst players. I worked my way up, though, and now I play with an older age group.

What skill is most important for a soccer player to master?
I think ball control and composure are the most important aspects. Every position has different skills, but ball control and composure are strategic aspects of the game required from the goalkeeper to the striker. Remaining calm prevents your brain from panicking and keeps you from making dumb decisions. This will make the other team’s job much harder.

What is your proudest moment or memory in the sport?
In the summer of 2019, I got invited to England to train with a professional team’s youth academy. It was a life-changing experience for me. My dream is to play professional soccer in England, so the ability to get a small taste of what life and soccer is like over there was surreal. England is home to the best soccer in the world, so that was certainly my proudest moment in the sport.

Who is your favorite soccer (fútbol) player and why?
My favorite soccer player is Cristiano Ronaldo. In my opinion, he’s the greatest player to ever play the game. The things he’s accomplished as well as what he can do with the ball is ridiculous. His passion for the sport is very admirable as well. No one hates losing more than he does. He’s a big inspiration to me.

Do you have any pre- or post-game habits or foods?
I have a very sensitive stomach, so I have to watch what I eat before games and practices. My pre-game “go-to” food is a ham sandwich. Normally I’ll get a Jersey Mike’s sub which is probably an odd pre-game food choice but it works for me. I also do some stretches from my physical therapist to prevent injury. I’m injury prone so it’s very important that I take good care of my body.

Are you most skilled at heading the ball, strategic ball placement, striking, effective passing or ball control? Which is needing the most improvement?
The strongest aspects of my game are my ball control and soccer IQ. The areas that need the most improvement are my striking and heading. I’ve been working on striking for the past year, so I am slowly improving. My heading is in desperate need of help. I’ve been working on it a lot, but there’s only so long that you can head the ball continuously before you get a headache, so I’ll have to improve that area progressively.

What do you find most challenging about soccer?
The most challenging aspect of soccer is the mental aspect. Unlike the physical skills of the game, the mental part of the game cannot be fixed with practice. If I were to make a mistake and my team were scored on because of it, I still have to lift my head and continue playing. Having no time-outs in soccer, you must mentally get back in the game within seconds. Letting your teammates and your coach down is the worst feeling in the world, so that’s why I think the mental part of the game is the hardest.